Enhanced social impact management

After almost a century of copper and cobalt mining and post-colonial civil war, Kolwezi, located in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was left with a degraded environment and a quarter of a million people subsisting on artisanal mining and agriculture.

SRK Consulting’s environmental and social team based in Johannesburg has been involved in mining rejuvenation projects in Kolwezi since 2002, including the completion of three environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA) in accordance with international good practice guidelines.

Because of their proximity, the three projects largely affected the same resources (rivers, groundwater, air quality, etc.) and receptors (local communities). The affected communities reside in the town of Kolwezi, the townships associated with the previous mining era and the surrounding rural villages. In addition, the three mining companies shared a desire to operate to the standard of international good practice embodied in the International Finance Corporation Performance Standards for Social and Environmental Management (IFC Performance Standards). The projects’ proximity, together with their common development schedules and the mining companies’ cooperation, enabled SRK to facilitate the development of a baseline data-sharing agreement among the companies.

With this agreement, SRK was able to complete the ESIAs for the different projects by gathering a comprehensive social and environmental baseline over several years. The process included over 150 stakeholder engagement meetings and around 770 household surveys.

While the environmental impacts of the individual projects differ as a result of the technical approaches to the projects, the social impacts are not dissimilar. The social impacts include, but are not limited to, employment opportunities, stimulation of the local and national economies through the payment of taxes and wages, economic displacement of artisanal miners and to a lesser extent subsistence farming, resettlement of communities whose land is taken for mine infrastructure development, exposure of communities to health and safety risks, and the influx of job seekers into Kolwezi.

SRK followed a consistent approach to the proposed management of the negative social impacts and the enhancement of the positive impacts. In support of a social licence to operate, a series of social management plans was prepared for each operation, based on the identified impacts, the sustainability policies of the respective companies and the IFC Performance Standards. Each set of social management plans includes the following:

• Social management plan
• Framework resettlement action plan
• Security plan
• Social development plan
• Artisanal mining strategy
• Labour and working conditions plan
• Influx management strategy
• Community health and safety plan
• Stakeholder engagement plan

In addition to promoting consistency in the management of impacts among the three companies, the robustness of the shared data sets has reinforced the integrity of the cumulative assessment of social and environmental impacts. This has enabled recommendations to be made for a regional approach to the management of impacts by a range of private and public sector partners.

If the recommendations are put into effect, the data-sharing agreement and inter-company cooperation will provide a basis for synergies and efficiencies, which would benefit the affected communities, the regional environment and the mining companies.

Allison Burger: aburger@srk.co.za

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